Miss Lulu Bett (1921)

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donnie
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Miss Lulu Bett (1921)

Post by donnie » Thu Oct 25, 2018 2:20 pm

My impression is that this film has never been as high on the radar screen with silent fans as it deserves, for some reason. I suppose that may be because of the subject matter—there is not a lot of action and adventure here, nor any real mystery, and much of the drama is internal. But it is in my top 5—maybe top 3—favorites, for a variety of reasons.

The story is a rather emotionally complex one with a lot of humor, but also a lot of poignance and sadness—as well as some rather odd plot goings-on. The overall theme has to do with how some members of a family can use and subjugate others—and the tragedy of those who let themselves be mentally abused in this way.

The screenplay is extremely well done, with each scene tightly knit and organic to the whole. I think a lot of this had to do with: 1. the fact that the original play by Zona Gale that this film was based on was very well-written; and 2. William deMille was an excellent directer. (I think there may be case to be argued that he was perhaps a better director than his more famous brother, Cecil.)

The highlight of this film for me, though, is Lois Wilson’s acting as the title character. Every tiny expression and action, right down to the movements in her fingers, express the sensitivity, nervousness, and frustration of the character. The subtlety and genuineness is just amazing. This is the only film I’ve seen her in, but judging from this, she was a consummate actress.

Milton Sills is also great in this (again, the only thing I’ve seen him in). The chemistry and tenderness between him and Wilson is very touching. Another standout is Helen Ferguson, as the daughter Diana (the scene in the train station is heart-wrenching.)

The last few minutes of the film are great—I won’t give out any spoilers for those who haven’t seen it—but suffice it to say the conclusion of the story is *very* satisfying.

Another big plus here is the superb score by Rodney Sauer and his Mont Alto Orchestra—on the Image Entertainment DVD version, which I’ll get to in a moment. (Try the scene, for example, at ~9:20. That music, combined with Lois Wilson’s acting…incredible.) Also on the DVD is Why Change Your Wife?—another marvelous film, this time with Cecil directing, and great performances by Thomas Meighan and Gloria Swanson. That’s another one not to be missed. I guess Lulu is the “B side” :? but it’s still my favorite of the two.

Recommended for all silent film fans!
Last edited by donnie on Thu Oct 25, 2018 7:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Kitty
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Re: Miss Lulu Bett (1921)

Post by Kitty » Thu Oct 25, 2018 4:12 pm

Thank you! This review really makes me want to watch this.
You trying to tell me you didn't hear that shriek? That was something trying to get out of its premature grave, and I don't want to be here when it does. - Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

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donnie
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Re: Miss Lulu Bett (1921)

Post by donnie » Fri Oct 26, 2018 2:07 pm

:) If you do, let me know what you think.

Another kind of "social drama" (I'd guess you'd call it) from this era that is one of my favorites is The Blot, directed by Lois Weber. I actually thought I'd written a review of that one, but I don't see it. As it's been awhile since I've seen it, I'd have to rewatch it to remember some of the details. Whenever I do, I'll try to write a review.

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